Open Source Computing and GIS in the UK

Travels in a digital world

Google Kills British History- Not

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Vector One points us to an article in the Independent about how google are destroying Britain’s culture by not showing it on their maps. The interviewee, from the British Cartographic Society, is slightly hysterical about this- let’s face it google are not that evil, but I have to say I agree with the basic premise, and disagree with Vector One’s analysis.

The fact is that Google maps are not as rich and interesting as those the Ordnance Survey produces. I’ve said in the past that there is more to maps than simply directions from A to B. As more people rely on google and satnav for their map use, they will miss out on all the unexpectedly interesting things you might find whilst on the the way to B.

Vector One seems to be suggesting that this is more to do with people’s inability to read maps than the increasing ubiquity of digital alternatives. This, therefore, must be the fault of the UK government education policy. While this might be true to an extent, it’s a symptom rather than a cause in my opinion. Personally, I think the fault lies with the Ordnance Survey, they’ve missed a trick really. They could have produced their own widely available digital mapping eons ago rather than wrapping it in prohibitive licensing terms and restrictive interfaces. Given a choice of google’s over-simplified view of the world, or the rich detail of the Ordnance Survey in your satnav or digital device, maybe a lot more people would choose the OS.

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